Saudi Arabia’s Illegal Executions of Juvenile Violent Extremist Offenders
“We’re keen on young recruits between fifteen and twenty as they are the most
adaptable to the concept of Jihad for the sake of God.”
-Osama Bin Laden2
Mustafa Abkar trekked from Chad to Mecca under the impression that he would be
studying the Qur’an.3 As it turns out, the so-called Qur’an course was a terrorist criminal course.4
Arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2003 at the age of sixteen, Mustafa was held without access to a
lawyer.5 He spent twelve years in prison and, throughout that entire period, he had only one court
hearing, where he was sentenced to death.6 Mustafa was one of three prisoners – including Ali al-Ribh and Amin al-Ghamidi7 – killed in a mass execution on January 2, 2016, whose alleged crimes
as violent extremist offenders8 took place when they were juveniles.9 All too often, those convicted
of committing crimes as juveniles are sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. In October 2015, for
example, the Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld a death sentence for Abdullah al-Zaher, who
was convicted of a crime he allegedly committed when he was fifteen years old.10 On July 27,
2016, Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was sentenced to death for crimes he allegedly committed in 2012,
at age sixteen, including “throwing two Molotov cocktails at police,” “participating in riots that
resulted in the shooting of an armored vehicle,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” “chanting
against the state,” and using “social media to insult the leaders.”11 Abdulkareem’s sentence was
upheld by the Supreme Court on September 11, 2017, thereby exhausting his final available
appeal.12 The Court’s decision was based solely on confessions, which Abdulkareem says were
1 Carrie Seleman is a J.D. candidate, class of 2019, at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
2 Miriam Wells & Namir Shabibi, These Are the Juvenile ‘Offenders’ Saudi Arabia Executed in January, VICE NEWS
(Apr. 26, 2016, 6:50 AM), https://news.vice.com/article/these-are-the-juvenile-offenders-saudi-arabia-executed-in-january.
7 U.S. DEP’T OF STATE, SAUDI ARABIA 2016 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT 1, 3 (2016) [hereinafter HUMAN RIGHTS
8 The Council of Europe defines violent extremism as “the promoting, supporting, or committing of acts which may
lead to terrorism and which are aimed at defending an ideology advocating racial, national, ethnic, or religious
supremacy, or opposing core democratic values.” See Guidelines for prison and probation services regarding
radicalisation and violent extremism, COUNCIL OF EUROPE (Mar. 2, 2016),
9 Wells & Shabibi, supra note 2.
10 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT, supra note 7, at 4.
12 Saudi Arabia: Further Information: Juvenile Offender at Risk of Imminent Execution, AMNESTY INT’L (Sept. 18,
2017), https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde23/7103/2017/en/ [hereinafter AMNESTY INT’L] (select